Saturday, October 10, 2009

Obituary: Murray Aronoff

Murray Aronoff, a crew member of a retired steamship, the Exodus 1947, on its aborted voyage to transport 4,500 Jewish refugees from France to Palestine in 1947, died on Dec. 30 at North Shore University Hospital-Cornell University Medical College in Plainview. He was 75.

The cause was complications resulting from Alzheimer's disease, said his son, Aaron.

During the Exodus's journey, the British, who were trying to balance Arab and Jewish interests in the Middle East, opposed the large influx of refugees to the region, and boarded the ship in international waters, trying to turn it back. Mr. Aronoff called together a group later called Murray's Marauders, about 400 volunteers, who fought off the troops. During the battle, he was injured by a steel-tipped gun.

Mr. Aronoff was a deckhand on the ship, which belonged to the Haganah, a Jewish resistance group in Palestine. Bernard Marks of Cincinnati was the first officer. ''Murray's Marauder's defended the ship,'' Mr. Marks said, referring to the battle. It lasted from 1:30 a.m. to 6 a.m. on July 18, 1947, as the British tried to take the ship. ''They had side arms, machine guns and tear gas,'' he said, ''and we had canned food and potatoes and rocks.''

The refugees were taken to Germany, but most eventually made it to Palestine. The incident drew international attention to the plight of the refugees, and was believed to help spur the creation of the modern state of Israel. The writer Leon Uris based his novel ''Exodus'' in part on the ship's journey.

Mr. Aronoff was born in Worcester, Mass., where his father was a house painter and an active Zionist. Mr. Aronoff, who shared his father's Zionist passion, could not fight in World War II because he had had polio as a child, his son said.

Until his mid-30's Mr. Aronoff was a professional speaker for the United Jewish Appeal and Israel Bonds, his son said. He worked for years in New York City's garment district as a salesman and part owner of a factory, and lived in Bethpage most of his life. In the late 1960's he was active in raising $500,000 to rebuild the Bethpage Jewish Community Center, which had burned. In his later years he helped lead several trips with college students that retraced the route of the exodus. He was also a former president of the American Veterans of Israel.

In addition to his son Aaron, who lives in Bellmore, N.Y., Mr. Aronoff is survived by two other sons, Keith, of Boca Raton, Fla.; and Craig, of Merrick, N.Y.; two daughters, Faith Aronoff of Manhattan and Andrea Aronoff of Bayside, Queens; and nine grandchildren.

NY Times

1 comment:

  1. murray aronoff was my grandfather. Thank you so much for posting this beautiful article. It is greatly appreciated!

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